Category Archives: 1960’s

Flashback: ‘Squirrelly’ Armijo Survives his own Funeral

Hi readers. I saw on Yahoo News that someone faked his own funeral. Got me remembering Squirrelly Armijo. So I searched for a post I was fairly certain I made in the deep history of this blog: Squirrelly didn’t fake his, except by accident.

A legendary man in the Quemado/Reserve area nicknamed ‘Squirrelly’ Armijo had a good working claim down near Queen’s Head in the Gallos near Apache Creek in the 1940s through the 1960s. Maybe that’s where he came across a skeleton, and probably just figured he might as well take it home, so he put it in his truck.
Driving up those winding mountain roads he lost control of the truck and rolled it. Squirrelly was thrown clear and the truck caught fire. He must have been out of his head, maybe with a concussion, because he evidently wandered into the mountains in a daze.

The police arrived and found the burned out truck with a skeleton inside and assumed because the truck belonged to him the remains were Squirrelly’s. He was pronounced dead, an expensive funeral held, and he was buried.

Twelve days later Squirrelly wandered out of the woods several miles away, which was a source of, first joy and awe, then suspicion. Initially it was thought he’d killed the person the skeleton belonged to. Then the lawsuits began, the Armijo family and the Funeral home arguing heatedly about who owed money to whom for burying some anonymous skeleton.

The story is so well-known it was used in a book about forensic pathology in New Mexico during the 1990s, the forensic pathologist explaining such a thing could never happen these more enlightened times. Journey in Forensic Anthropology, Stanley Rhine, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1998. Author Rhine elected to change Squirrelly’s surname to Aramando to avoid any sort of civil action. The Armijo family’s been herding sheep in that country since the time there was nobody out there but them and Mimbres Apaches. A lot of them are still there.

“A Premature Funeral

“Bones and Fire
“On June 4, 1959, Forest Service lookouts reported smoke rising from what was assumed to be a small forest fire just east of the Arizona state line, among the 8,000-feet peaks of the San Francisco Mountains of southwestern New Mexico. A firefighting crew dispatched to the scene discovered no forest fire, but an automobile burning furiously on the side of a gravel forest road. Dousing the flames, they found a mass of burned flesh, a skull, some other bones, and some teeth resting inside the burned-out hulk.

“The car was found to belong to a Mr. Armando, well known in the
lightly populated region. His fiery demise prompted the organization of a six-person coroner’s inquest in Catron County. According to former Catron County Sheriff and now Washoe County ( Nevada) Coroner Vernon McCarty, the “six responsible citizens” required by 1950s New Mexico law were most easily found by the justices of the peace at a local bar.

“McCarty observed that an insufficiency of able-bodied citizens could be remedied either by visiting several such spots or by prolonging the official quest at one of them for as long as it took to empanel the necessary six people.

“The resulting coroner’s jury in this case was made up of ranchers, Forest Service firefighters, two bartenders, and a service station attendant. It concluded that the remains were “badly burned and charred beyond positive identification,” according to the Albuquerque Journal for June 17, 1960. Nonetheless, an identification was made by Armando’s two brothers-in-law and the district attorney, apparently functioning in his multiple roles of death investigator and skeletal “expert.” That it was Armando was attested to the by the fact that the human skull was accompanied by some impressively large upper incisors. These prominent choppers had . . .”

Probably Squirrelly never paused to wonder about any moral or ethical issues when he put that skeleton into his truck. He just did it absent-mindedly the way any of us might. Probably somewhat as Mel did on Gobblers Knob:

Exploring Alley Oop’s Home Circa 1947.

I suppose the Squirrelly story came to mind because it’s a synopsis of the possibilities carried to the ultimate extreme, accompanied by the fact I recently had an email from his great-nephew wanting to ask some questions about my mention of his Queenshead claim in my lost gold mine book.

Old Jules

Previous posts: Skulls, skeletons and homicides:

The Ruin Skull – A Long Day Ago

Cold Mystery, Fevered Romance and Lost Gold

The Strangeness – Background Context of Unsolved Homicides

The men at Eva’s Boarding House, Houston, Texas, 1967

metropolitan 2

Hi readers.  There must have been 20 of us staying at Eva’s for $20 a week.  Two meals a day and a bed, usually 2-3 guys to a room.  All the rooms were sectioned off with imaginary boundaries so each renter had a footlocker and place to hang his clothes, shared a shower and john.

We were welders, mechanics, service station attendants, short order cooks, construction workers and day laborers.  Eva made sure we all had jobs, before she’d rent to anyone.  She ran a high quality place and didn’t want any riffraff staying there.  And most of us stayed.  During the year I lived there only a few moved on, only a rare new guy came in.

So we all got to know one another, became a mealtime community of sorts.  Mostly hung out nights at the bar next door called the Buckhorn.  We were almost all veterans, by hindsight I’d say we were headed to an alcoholic future if we kept on the way we were going.  But we were America.  Young guys between 20 and 30 years old, all white, all working hard and assuming that was how a person lives.

Naturally most of us thought about women a lot, tried to pick up women anytime they came into the Buckhorn.  Flirted with Eva when we got a chance.  Told one another stories about women we knew, women where we’d been, women we’d been in the sack with, women we couldn’t get into the sack.

A few of the guys at Eva’s were divorced, and I recall one from Victoria or Wharton who was still married and went off weekends to see his family.  The rest of us mostly hung out in bars or tried to womanize however we could.  Around that time I began dating my [now] ex-wife in Port Lavaca and spending the weekends down the coast.

We guys at Eva’s couldn’t care less about politics.  Lyndon Johnson was president, the Vietnam War was raging, and it was none of our business.  We wanted to drink a lot and we wanted women.

One day during the evening meal someone said a shop had opened further down Alabama Street where the sold dirty books and had machines you could put a quarter into.  He said they actually showed people screwing in those machines.  Movies showing people screwing for a quarter.

Most of us were skeptical.  That sort of thing would get a person in jail, we speculated.  So after supper we all headed down there, walking along Alabama Street, laughing and joking, poking one another in the ribs.  Into the first porn shop in Houston, Texas.

A lot of quarters went into those machines that night.  And on the way home, at
meals for days afterward it was the dominating subject of conversation.
Wondering how those people were getting by with showing that.  Wondering what kind of people the women were, whether they were hookers, strippers, or just regular women.

Most of the guys figured they were strippers and hookers. Figured the place was
run by off-duty cops so’s to allow it to stay open.  Shows how the world has
matured since 1967.

We guys at Eva’s had been around the block, been overseas, most of us.  Served in the military.  Hung around with hookers, drank, gambled and drove too fast.  While drunk sometimes.  We thought we knew a lot.  And we knew nothing.

I never saw any of those guys again after I got married in August that year for the next 25 years.  I’m betting they all went right on through life thinking they knew a lot, same as we’d thought back at Eva’s.  I certainly did.  A lot of what I knew I learned from those guys at Eva’s.  Or at least a piece of it.  And none of us knew anything for me to learn from.  We wee a bunch of ignorant normal people.

We thought the women in those porn videos were different from other women.  Different from the women we knew, except maybe hookers we knew.  There was no way we could have guesseed they were probably just regular women who decided they wanted to give that a try and weren’t ashamed, browbeaten, frightened by public opinion into not doing it.

Likely some were fair to middling good people.

But we guys down at Eva’s Boarding House hadn’t lived long enough to understand this world is a complicated place for human beings.  It’s bad about keeping the cards close to the cuff.

Old Jules

“If those Japanese could have held out through one more atomic bomb we wouldn’t be eating this crap!”

Hi readers.  Here’s wishing you a fulfilling independence from having the British for your bosses ordering you around and making you drink their damned tea.  If our ancestors hadn’t won their independence from the British we’d have had to fight on their side during WWI and WWII, the way their other colonies did.

Anyway, that WWI museum got me thinking about what GIs used to eat.  There was a long shelf of displays of their mess kits, carved fancier than a POW would do.  Beautiful designs and artwork produced while their feet were rotting off in trenches between having the bejesus shelled out of them and being sniped at across no-man’s-land.

 In Korea, at least in the First Cavalry Division, what we ate in 1963-1964 whenever we were on field rations was all left over from WWII.  1945ish WWII.  K Rations.

Breakfast Unit  Canned meat product Biscuits Compressed cereal bar Powdered coffee Fruit bar Chewing gum Sugar tablets Four cigarettes Water-purification tablets Can opener Wooden spoon

Breakfast Unit
Canned meat product
Biscuits
Compressed cereal bar
Powdered coffee
Fruit bar
Chewing gum
Sugar tablets
Four cigarettes
Water-purification tablets
Can opener
Wooden spoon

Camp Howze, Korea, had an enormous bunker chock full of K Rations of the nostalgic variety dating from before the Japanese surprised us with a surrender while we still had an atomic bomb and one-hell-of-a-lot of K Rations left.  I can testify from personal experience the US Army was patriotic and continued eating those rations 20 years after the premature and cowardly surrender of Japan.

Dinner Unit  Canned cheese product Biscuits A candy bar Chewing gum Powdered beverage Granulated sugar Salt tablets Cigarettes Matches Can opener  Wooden spoon

Dinner Unit
Canned cheese product
Biscuits
A candy bar
Chewing gum
Powdered beverage
Granulated sugar
Salt tablets
Cigarettes
Matches
Can opener
Wooden spoon

 Our quonsot hut had a corner filled with Ks still in the cartons so we could fill those long winter nights with partying song, beer, and anything worth eating in a crate of Ks.

Supper Unit Canned meat product Biscuits Bouillon powder Candy Chewing gum Powdered coffee Granulated sugar Cigarettes Can opener Toilet paper Wooden spoon

Supper Unit
Canned meat product
Biscuits
Bouillon powder
Candy
Chewing gum
Powdered coffee
Granulated sugar
Cigarettes
Can opener
Toilet paper
Wooden spoon

The cigarettes in ours weren’t Chesterfields.  Ours were Lucky Strikes in a Green package.  As in the old radio WWII jingle, “Lucky Strike green has gone to war!”  Lucky Strike changed colors after the war to red and white, but Luckies kept right on fighting in green until all those damned Ks were consumed by GIs.

Ahhh.  Nothing like sparking up a Lucky out of a carton of Ks, working fast to inhale a little tobacco smoke before it burned down to your fingertips.  Those smokes were 20 years old and we never found a way to add enough moisture to keep them smoking instead of burning.

And the chocolate!  The godforsaken chocolate turned white with age.  We didn’t care.  Everything in those Ks got tried and nobody ever died from them.  And I never heard of anyone getting drunk from them.

Fact was, a person with extra money could go to the PX and get crackers, but if he did he’d have to share with the whole hooch.  Same with sardines.  And we had KATUSAs in our hooch.  Four of them.  Korean Augmentations to the US Army.  And those bastards could go through a case of crackers, cans of sardines, quicker than you could make a grab for a can before they were gone.

But even the KATUSAs couldn’t make remarkably short work of a case of Ks.  There was always enough for everyone, along with some leftovers to munch on guard duty.

Damn.  These modern all-volunteer military guys are spoiled.  Except maybe in Korea.  Hell, in Korea they might still be eating Ks and wishing to hell the Japanese had gutted out another atomic bomb.

Old Jules

Ferry tales

All but two of these guys were 2 year draftees or single enlistment 3 year recruits.  Those would have all come home before the end of 1964, ETS [expiration term of service].  Just in time to miss the Vietnam debacle.  Those returning to the US for reassignment went to 11th Air Assault Group, Fort Gordon, GA, training to jump out of helicopters.  Then the Army moved the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam, dissolved the 11th Air Assault Group, and sent everyone in it to Vietnam.  I'm betting these guys had better sense than to reinlist.

All but two of these guys were 2 year draftees or single enlistment 3 year recruits. Those would have all come home before the end of 1964, ETS [expiration term of service]. Just in time to miss the Vietnam debacle. Those returning to the US for reassignment went to 11th Air Assault Group, Fort Gordon, GA, training to jump out of helicopters. Then the Army moved the 1st Cavalry Division to Vietnam, dissolved the 11th Air Assault Group, and sent everyone in it to Vietnam. I’m betting these guys had better sense than to reenlist.

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Camp Howze, Korea, 1963, 1964.  I was standing in a chow line almost certainly with one of the guys in this picture waiting for breakfast.  A twelve-year-old Korean lad came down the line selling Stars and Stripes newspapers, yelling, “Lots of Japs killed!  Hurrah!  Lots of Japs killed!

Koreans still savored a deep hatred for Japanese in those days.  Having your mamas and grandmamas raped more-or-less whenever the mood hit for a few decades probably does that.  At least when the rapers are of a particular nationality.  [I've wondered whether East Germans don't feel some of that toward the Rooskies because of their grannies during the retreat from the Eastern Front].

Anyway, it was a ferry disaster of some sort carrying Japanese passengers.  The first time I recall ever paying any mind to ferries and the associated dangers.

But over the decades I’ve certainly heard about a lot of them.  I suspect a risk assessment involving frequent use of ferries would reveal it to be more dangerous than airliners, trains or busses.  Not to say I haven’t ridden on a lot of them.

But on a ferry going between [I think] Newport News, RI, and Long Island, a nuclear attack submarine surfaced next to our ferry almost close enough to touch.  We assumed at the time the submarine commander was perfectly aware of the ferry.  By hindsight, though, I’m brought to wonder whether he had to go change his shorts when our presence and proximity came to his attention.

A person used to be able to pay once to get on the Statin Island Ferry and ride it back and forth all night, which I did a good many times.  Near misses with smaller craft were relatively common and a source of amusement for the ferry passengers.

I was on a ferry to one of the outer banks islands of Georgia, or North Carolina once when it hit something hard enough to jangle the eye-teeth of everyone aboard.  Never heard what it was, but none of the passengers were laughing.

Which is to say, life’s full of surprises and ferries have the potential for providing new ones.

I don’t recall when I began carrying a couple of hundred feet of small diameter 200 pound test rope with me in my luggage when I travelled.  But I do recall it was a decision I made watching people diving out of the windows of burning multi-story buildings on the news.  A bit of rope, I observed, would have saved a lot of them by allowing them to get off the upper floors and beneath the fires.

If I had to ride a ferry every day I’d probably decide an inflatable camp pillow would provide a nice place to sit on those hard ferry benches.  One person aboard protected by one inflatable pillow would remove the temptation those vessels wave around in front of the Coincidence Coordinators inviting disaster.

Old Jules

 

 

Photos VA Chapel and Weston, MO house courtesy of Jeanne

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Possumly Jesse James, or a Younger or Dalton or someone else lived here, or visited here, or rode a horse by the place and gazed at it as he/she went by.

IMG_2237

!895 Chapel for VA Center at Fort Leavenworth in seriously bad repair. Protestant downstairs, Catholic further downstairs though the signs are somewhat misleading. No harm in a protestant attending Mass or a Catholic racking up some fire and brimstone occasionally, I reckons.

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Interesting stained glass work. Dunno whether it’s Catholic or the other one.

IMG_2238

Gargoyles are shared equally by Catholics and Protestants.

IMG_2239

The VA hospital environment surrounding this seems obliquely appropriate.

IMG_2240

The metalwork on those doors is probably symbolic of something, but everyone who once knew what it was is dead.

IMG_2243

This end of the building is in bad repair threatening collapse in places, but ain’t likely to get any better.

IMG_2249

Directly across the street from the chapel. It’s been through a long series of declines and repairs but we need another World War of considerable duration to bring it back to full bloom. Need to conscript all these young houdilums and get them on track to need a place such as this.

IMG_2250

The sign above the door reads, THE DUGOUT and can still be made out with a bit of squinting. I’m thinking it was a club for the people going through treatment, might have been used as recently as the Vietnam War.

IMG_2252

The Dugout

  IMG_2241 IMG_2242 IMG_2244 IMG_2246 IMG_2247 IMG_2251

A morning on the VA medical launchpad

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I don’t know a lot more about my health this afternoon than I knew when I awakened this morning, but I know a good deal more about other interesting matters than I once did.  Went through the television interview with some people somewhere else asking about various health issues.  This evidently resulted in checkmarks going to a file telling them what testing to do afterward in the lab.

Judging from the tests the interviewers weren’t discounting a hyperfunctioning thyroid, though they  were closed-mouth about any opinions they formed during the interview.  They did hint at the possibility I might want to take it easy and not do anything particular until I’ve seen the doctor on the 20th of December.

But hanging around that waiting area was worth the price of admission.  Discovered what a huge percentage of the circa 1965-1975 US Army, AF, Navy and Marine Corps who end up getting health treatment from the VA have discovered they were point-men infantrymen, snipers, and other non-company clerk in Danang, personnel or supply clerk, cooks, or motorpool monkeys in Siagon [folks comprising 90+ percent of the Vietnam jobs of the time].

Which is to say, when you’re an old bastard and find your life hasn’t been sufficiently interesting, you can sit in the waiting room at the VA and blow smoke up the asses of a lot of other old guys.  And if you do, some others will crawl out of the wood work to provide an atmosphere of reciprocity and mutual ex post facto revisions of history.  I’ve got a feeling the non-vet practice promiscuously using phrases such as, ‘fought for our freedoms,’ or ‘fought in Vietnam’  brings the incentive.  If you were in Vietnam and never heard a shot fired in anger along with almost everyone else in Vietnam, how do you reconcile it with someone accusing you of ‘fighting for our freedoms?’  Or, ‘fought in Vietnam’?

Lordee what a needy bunch of sons of bitches we Americans are in our dotage.

Old Jules’

Big Spring Buggaboo Karma on the Half-shell

Hi readers.

1967, I’m going to say, though it might have been 1968, my somewhat newlywed wife and I headed from Houston to my home town of Portales, NM, for reasons I no longer fathom.  Driving a 10 year-old Fairlane 500.  Crossed the easy Texas parts without incident, but around midnight pulled over 12 miles outside Big Spring, TX to piss and kiss, most likely.

Shut down the engine and when I went to start it again the battery was dead.  Soooo, we bundled up and tried to sleep, but pre-dawn I was on the shoulder of the road trying to flag down someone with booster cables.  Watching the light emerge and a mesa-like hill across the highway a few miles.

Nice guy in a pickup stopped and boosted us off.  When I thanked him he commented he just couldn’t leave anyone stranded 12 miles outside Big Spring, Texas.  Fixed that hill to the west and the distance in my mind forever.

So last week when I was headed here, saw the sign south of Big Spring, BIG SPRING 13 miles and remembered, began watching for that hill.  There it was, just as obvious as that morning so long ago.

BOOM WHACK CLUNKCLUNKCLUNKBANGCLUNK!

Blew out the inside rear tire on the driver side.

But no way I was  pulling over and shutting down my engine.  So I drove on into Big Spring, eased west toward Andrews.  Didn’t blow the second tire until 15 miles from here.

Some things in this life a person doesn’t need to learn twice.  Even if he’s me.  That place 12 miles south of Big Springs is one of them.

Jack